Glenn Witherspoon isn’t trying to put on any brave face–he’s just trying to be realistic about the speech he has to make this weekend.
“Hopefully I can hold it together,” said the former mayor of Fort Frances from 1991-2003, who will join his late father, Jim Witherspoon, in being inducted together into the Fort Frances Sports Hall of Fame in the builder category on Saturday night.
“Memories and emotion can sometimes take over, but I’m sure I’ll recover,” Witherspoon noted.
“To be selected was a surprise to myself and would have been to my father, too,” he added.
“It’s very humbling.”
The Witherspoon name was synonymous with hockey in Fort Frances for many years–from its highest level all the way down to the minor ranks.
Jim Witherspoon was the driving force behind the creation of the Fort Frances Royals junior team, which existed from 1958-74.
“It was because of his financial commitment and dedication to the team that the Royals lasted 16 years,” Glenn said.
“Dad did a ton of stuff for the Royals and for minor hockey, too,” he added.
“This honour is well-deserved and to have the things I did recognized, too, is so very good.”
Jim’s first sporting connection to Rainy River District actually was as a star pitcher and third baseman for the Devlin senior men’s baseball team as a young man.
When he bought the Royal Service gas station in the west end of Fort Frances in the 1950s, he began to sponsor both Bantam and junior hockey teams, including junior squads in the Manitoba and Thunder Bay leagues.
In a reflection of his devotion to helping prop up local amateur sports, he coached, managed, and sponsored the Witherspoon Whips women’s fastball team and also sponsored the Whips men’s squad.
As for Glenn, he served as the Royals’ starting goalie for the first three years of their existence from 1958-60.
After moving to the U.S. to play hockey in different locations for four years, Glenn returned to Fort Frances to be the coach of the Royals from 1965-71 and their manager from 1966 until the team folded in 1974.
He later coached the Fort Frances PeeWee and Bantam ‘AA’ teams, and held the title of president of the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association for 10 years.
Glenn’s tenure with the FFMHA led to him joining Milt Strachan Sr. as the only two people to be named honourary lifetime members of the association.
He also was the Thunder Bay Hockey Association’s minor hockey representative for the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, was a Level 5 coach with the CAHA, and served on the local recreation committee.
As mayor, his efforts were a foundation for the addition of a second ice surface here (the Ice For Kids Arena), which led to a revamping of the entire property to construct what is now the Memorial Sports Centre.
Glenn anticipated this Saturday’s ceremony, which he expected also will see his two brothers in attendance, will be one of his best experiences ever.
“To be the first father-son tandem inducted into the hall is really special,” he remarked.
“It will be very memorable and an evening I’ll never forget.”
Editor’s note: The second Fort Frances Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are scheduled for this Saturday (Aug. 12) at La Place Rendez-Vous beginning at 5 p.m.
Tickets cost $35, which are available at Taggs/Source for Sports, as well as by contacting Barb/Terry Ogden at 274-5195 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org